A fellow researcher asked the South Dakota Board of Regents for documents relating to the creation of the South Dakota International Business Institute, the entity that ran South Dakota's suspect EB-5 program as an administrative unit of Northern State University from 1994 to 2009, when director Joop Bollen finagled the state into formally privatizing that immigrant investor program.
The Regents' rather remarkable response is that they can find only two documents pertaining to SDIBI in their files, the agenda and minutes of the May 5-6, 1994, Board of Regents meeting in Vermillion at which the Regents replaced the International Business Center with the SDIBI. The Regents called Northern and got hold of six more documents:
- NSU's proposal to authorize SDIBI, which includes a proposed budget of $54,000, including $38,000 for salary and $2,500 for travel;
- a mission statement;
- a 1994 grant proposal seeking $79,578 from the U.S. Department of Education for SDIBI;
- a 2000 grant proposal seeking $89,969 from the USDoE for SDIBI;
- two undated abstracts indicating that NSU was seeking USDoE money to expand SDIBI services. Neither abstract's dollar figures match the figures in the grant application forms presented.
You can view that rather thin packet of documents here. Note that, perhaps oddly, the packet does not include any of the 2008 correspondence between NSU and the Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee.
SDIBI evolved to be South Dakota's EB-5 visa recruiter and broker. SDIBI distributed millions of dollars of foreign money to South Dakota dairies and other businesses. Yet the state agency that authorized and, one would logically conclude, supervised SDIBI for fifteen years can only produce eight pieces of paper concerning SDIBI. Not one of these meager papers mentions EB-5. Every one of these papers is prospective, not evaluative. These papers tell us what SDIBI said it would do, but none show SDIBI reporting regularly to Northern or the Regents what SDIBI actually did.
So whatever Joop Bollen was doing in SDIBI, Northern State and the Board of Regents don't appear to have paid much attention, until they looked up from their desks years later and realized they were carrying a budget line item that wasn't doing much to promote academic objectives. In their final description of SDIBI's functions, in their accounting of FY 2011 budget cuts, the Regents said that the SDIBI director "assists State and Federal agencies in enhancing international trade and investment. This was to be accomplished by developing and implementing international trade services for South Dakota in a manner that optimizes return on investment."
That closing job description seems to be a far cry from the academic services the Regents thought they were investing in when they authorized SDIBI in 1994. And that's what happens when a state agency doesn't pay attention to how its subordinate agencies spend their money.